Friday, August 29, 2008

Jhama Sweets, Chembur, Mumbai

Jhama is an extremely popular sweet shop in Chembur in Mumbai.

I have an uncle who lives nearby who never fails to pick up a box of their sweets for us when he visits. So I have tried their kaju kathri and various other sweets, whose names I don't even know and found them outstanding!.

Last time, we visited Chembur, I was in the mood for some chaat, so we strolled over to Jhama as we were already familar with the name.

The chaat was as good or even better than their sweets. We had fresh gajar ka halwa, jelebis and faloodas. The process of preparation simply serves to whet ones appetitie.

The gajar ka halwa had so many nuts in it, it was more of dry fruit halwa. But it was still awesome. My words can't convey how good the food was, so I'll let the pictures do the talking.
Notice the dry fruits on top. Cashew nuts, almonds and raisins
Closer look at the halwa itself
Garma garam jelebis
Falooda being constructed.

Finished product. Its much tastier than it looks like.

Jhama also sells a lot of different namkeen, which are extremely tasty.

Definitely pick up some stuff from here, if you are in the area. But if you want sweets on a festive occasion, then make sure you have placed your order well in advance.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Prithvi Theatre Cafe, Juhu, Mumbai

This Cafe was one of my favorites in Mumbai. Yes, you read it right, it "WAS". (check my previous review)

Close to my house, this was where me and my husband often sat discussing the play we were going to watch over a cup of coffee and light snacks like cheese balls or dissecting and analysing the play we had just watched over raan and Prithvi's famous irish coffee :)

I often visited the cafe when I was feeling low on inspiration and creativity and it was marvelous how just being there in that location with the presence of immensely talented individuals like Makarand Deshpande and Kay Kay (does he go as KK now?) among others could charge me up.

There were the occasional Ekta Kapur actresses who would show up for a play, but they were completely ignored by the serious acting crowd (theatre) and the people who went there to watch talented actors.

This adda was like a 2nd home to me in Mumbai. The husband and me averaged at least one play a week and sometimes more than that. I was at the cafe with him or on my own twice or even more in a week.

Service was sometimes slow, but you could see the waiters doing their best to manage it all and you didnt mind. What few people knew was that the cafe had a really awesome dinner menu and it was amazing to sit under those lights hanging from the trees and enjoy a meal.

Once we moved to Egypt we watched on the news that the cafe had introduced a new, more Mumbaiyya menu. On our trip to India in January we decided to go back to the cafe for old times sake and we were HORRIFIED!

There were a new bunch of waiters who did not even seem to know the menaing of the word "service" It took more than 20 minutes of sitting at a table (which we found ourselves after scrounging vacant chairs from nearby tables) before the waiter even acknowledged our presence. Another 20 minutes to get us a menu. The menu had thrice the number of items than before, but not even 10% of them were available. We found this out the painful way, by ordering some items and then being told none of them were available. This process repeated a couple of times, till we finally asked the waiter, "just tell us what IS available" He hardly mentioned 5 items.

Since we were a group and had already waited that long and gone through all the trouble of parking et al, we ordered one of each and told him to bring each item as it was ready in case some items took longer than others to prepare. 40 minutes after ordering, not a single item had reached our table. We asked the waiter about the status and he said "another 15 minutes" without even a trace of an apology in his voice.

So we told him to cancel the order and we walked out. He looked at us walk away with more relief than dismay on his face!

Doubt I will visit the cafe again, unless something changes drastically and they can match the standards of the previous avataar.

Please observe 2 minutes silence for the passing of a great cafe, that once was @ Prithvi!

Oasis, Chembur, Mumbai

My SIL chose this place for rakhi (a festival celebration of the brother sister bond) dinner with her bhaiyya (elder brother).

The ambience was really nice, inspite of the loud kitty party like dinner going on on the premises. (in one of the other rooms)

The dining hall was a large open space with white tablecloths and muted lighting. Very romantic setting if you take a table for two.

The food was the star. Being back in India after ages, I had decided I would only drink and eat Indian specialities. In keeping with that, I ordered a masaledaar chaas (70) and asked them to add some finely chopped chillies to the drink. The drink was outstandingly flavored and balanced and the chillies were chopped so fine, that they did not catch in your teeth (they were chopped not pureed)

They serve alcohol and cocktails too. The Singapore sling (130) was a strawberry flavored cocktail that was interesting. A small peg - 30ml of bacardi was 190 and the diet pepsi was Rs60. The kingfisher pint was 120. Water was 50 bucks for a liter.

The aloo cheese balls(185) were good, but I still crave the taste of the old Prithvi cafe ones at 1/3rd the price and thrice the flavor. The corn tikki (165) was interesting and tasty with lots of corn unlike most locations which overdo the batter holding it together.

The makhmali tukda (190) was the most outstanding paneer I have eaten in a long time. The paneer itself was soft and tender which had been seared to crispness on the outside in a tandoor, but not over done. Highly recommended.

Chicken Hazari kebab (215) was tender, soft and marinated in a malai'ish sauce. Malai and white kebabs are not my favorite (I like more kick in my kebabs) unless its is a malai-kali mirch combination, but this one was worth having a second round of.

For the main course, we ordered Paneer mazedar (205) which tasted suspiciously like a butter paneer with minimal jazzing up. I'd prefer the kebabs any day.
Murgh hari mirch (215) which wasn't very spicy, but tasty none-the-less.
Kulchas and makai roti were 35. Butter kulchas 45. Kulchas were soft and easy to tear apart. the makai roti was kadak in a good way.

The star of my evening was the kacche ghosht ki dum biryani (220) I ordered the boneless variety and I was in heaven. Right balance of spices, browned onions, tender mutton. My mouth stil waters at the memory.

For dessert, we wrapped it up with a malai kulfi (95) and gajar halwa (75) Halwa was really good, but the kulfi was rather generic.

I'd definitely visit again the next time I am Chembur, but I will stick to the chaas, paneer kebabs and the biryani. My own little version of heaven on earth :)

Patio, Gajalee, Mumbai, India

I have always been a huge fan of Gajalee in Mumbai for sea food. I find their sea food better than Mahesh Lunch home or Trishna. (although Trishna's butter pepper garlic crab topples the scales completely)

My husband too loves the food at Gajalee. There was one branch very close to his office in Vile Parle and most office meetings invariably took place there. The days I couldn't send him lunch, he would order in from there. Its a wonder I haven't reviewed this place before, given how often we have eaten there.

Gajalee in Vile Parle is not extremely fancy but it does have an air conditioned room with cushioned seats for those used to those comforts (at a very slight premium) compared to the wooden mess like tables and benches on the rest of the premises.

Our standard order used to be a starter of solkadi (drink made of kokum - red berry- garlic and coconut milk which is an excellent appetiser, digestive and accompaniment to the food) and King fish fry (a large slice of king fish/eeson - batter fried and served with an amazing spicy green chutney which definitely has green mango in it for sourness)

The main course could be a fish or mutton thali (strangely we never tasted the chicken thali) with prawns achari (shrimp in a pickle flavored gravy, high on mustard seeds) on the side. The thali includes rice, a gravy/curry, a dry dish and some vegetable. Very filling and awesomely flavorful.

Amboli - a thick dosa - lentil pancake and ghawne - neer dosa/panpole - a thin flat pancake were normally ordered on the side to enjoy the curries further.

Given that we were both back in Mumbai for 2 days, it was imperative that we visit gajalee for some spicy seafood after Egypt. Since we were closest to Andheri at that time, we stopped at Patio near NMIMS college which also houses a Gajalee. This is a more upmarket version. Prices are higher and they have a lot of North Indian and Chinese cuisine on the menu. Don't let this fool you into thinking that the standard of sea food would be middling. It is not. In fact, it is quite excellent and this restaurant also serves boneless crab.

You have to forgive me for not taking pictures, the food was smelling so good and we were so hungry and craving spicy sea food, that thoughts of taking the camera out of the bag and clicking pictures never even entered my mind!

Back to the boneless crab. While Trishna @ Kala Ghoda does an awesome butter pepper garlic crab, it comes in a shell and that means the butter solidifies as it turns cold while you take time and effort to eat the crab. So while it starts out awesome, by the time you finish, it gets a bit icky.

Not so at Patio. The butter garlic crab comes boneless, so no time wasted and you can eat it with your amboli or ghawne (expalined above). The sweetness of crab meat mingles with the saltiness of the yellow butter, it is cooked in and the garlic adds piquancy to the whole flavor, that just explodes in your mouth.

The dish is a bit expensive at 1250/- but it is completely worth it.

This time they had an innovation called crab green chilli. Similar to the butter garlic crab but with some green chilli thrown in for spiciness. It wasn't over spicy and the chillies did not over power the mild sweet crab flavor, it was just exquisitely balanced. At 1250/- its a must try

Since we had the green chilli crab, we opted for the squid butter garlic (200) which was also outstanding. Not really deep fried or shallow fried but something in between. The texture of the squid was just right with the buttered garlic hugging on to each squid ring.

Of course, we ordered the Solkadi (25) and it felt so good to be drinking this again.

The prawns achari at the Parle location feels and tastes more authentic than the Patio version(250), but husband proclaimed it good (not outstanding but good) . Reasonably medium sized prawns.

The mutton masala (140) was middling. Neither terrible nor as good as the other dishes. While it may have stood out at another restaurant, here it just blended in without making its presence felt.

They did not have king fish, so we couldn't have that.

Ambolis and Ghawnes were 15/- each, soft and tasty. Mineral water was 15.

They do have deserts, but this is the caramel custard, ice cream variety which are a dampener after such a wonderful meal. So I prefer to leave with the flavor of crab or squid in my mouth. But if I remember right, the gajalee in Parle outsources some cheese cake and chocolate cake which were very good. I'm not 100% sure of this though.

The other dishes we have often enjoyed are the fried bombil (bombay duck - a fish not poultry) and the stuffed pomfret. The bombil is fresh not the dried variety.

The sea food at Gajalee is always fresh and tasty and this place is a definite must-visit for the pescatarian.


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